Cannes 2023 Review: CREATURA, Frightening Female Sexuality
Director Elena Martîn Gimeno gives a committed, bracing performance in her film, without sensationalizing its subject.
A subtle observation on female sexuality by Catalan director/writer/star Elena Martín Gimeno, Creatura examines a childhood sexual repression manifesting in physical form on the body of Mila (played by the director herself).
The film starts with Mila and her mild-mannered boyfriend Marcel (Oriol Pla) moving into the house of Mila’s parents, Gerard and Diana, as the old couple moves out. It’s the house by the sea that she grew up in. Mila is always horny, but her demands are met with Marcel’s frustration because he doesn’t know what Mila really wants. Mila in turn, gets hives all over her body because of the stress. She says to him she got the condition from her childhood.
The lengthy flashback in the middle concentrates on Mila as a 15-year-old girl. With her more promiscuous bestie Aina, they discover boys and explore sticky situations, as well as anonymous internet messengers for voyeuristic sexual encounters. But it’s still all normal stuff that teenagers are into.
Mila experiments with a hunky boy that she has hots for, but it doesn’t end well. She finally hooks up with a neighborhood boy whom she has known all her life. But when she asks for permission for a sleepover at his house, her father, usually very calm and loving, angrily rejects the idea. Again, Mila breaks into hives all over her lower body.
Creatura is an interesting film about how the female sexuality frightens men. The word 'uncomfortable' gets repeated twice with both Mila’s father and her boyfriend who can’t handle it whenever she expresses her desires.
In a patriarchal society, the idea that girls are either sluts or virgins, depending on their level of curiosity in sex, is embedded early on, while boys grow up expecting, at least, to get a handjob from a girl who shows even the slightest interest in you.
Martín Gimeno goes even further back to find the origin of Mila’s physical conditions with her as a pre-pubescent child, spending the summer days with her parents on the beach. She develops a strong attachment to her father, as he gives her a piggyback ride and giving her swimming lessons in the ocean.
It’s a man stroking his female companion’s bum on the beach that sears into little Mila’s head. She asks her parents to stroke her bum so she can sleep. At first, the parents are not alarmed about her clingy behavior. But her display of learned behavior frightens her father deeply, as it is not ‘normal’ for a girl to behave in what can be construed as sexual in any way.
Her father gets upset when little Mila barges into their bedroom demanding to see him naked. She breaks out in hives and it’s her mother’s turn to console her and wash her in the sea, because sea water cures it all.
After the adult Mila’s role-playing sexual game gets too uncomfortable for Marcel, he leaves. Then Mila gets to spend time with her parents alone, as they come back to console her. Now a grown woman, Mila asks her dad, who is still uncomfortable around her, if he ever felt physically affectionate toward her. This talk is a revelation to him, as he never thought about it in his life.
Creatura delves into a difficult subject to many men: female sexual desire and its brutal suppression early on. Martîn Gimeno gives a committed, bracing performance and bares it all in a film with a difficult subject matter, taking a nuanced yet frank approach, without sensationalizing its subject.
Creatura is a selection in The Director's Fortnight at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on everything cinema and beyond can be found at www.dustinchang.com
- Elena Martín
- Elena Martín
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